Art & Fear

So this past Spring I  completed my last (!!!) grad school class. The goal of the class was to help us (art teachers) create a sustainable practices for making art. This is a goal I have never given up on, but all of my most productive art making moments have been in conjunction with a class.This class required me to take stock of my artistic practice and my needs as an artist and find ways to help me persevere when I do not have an external force driving my work.

One of the most valuable resources in the class was the book Art & Fear. I had walked past it many times in the book store, thinking “What does art have to do with fear?” However reading it has made me realize that I am not alone in my struggles to create a sustainable art making practice. It points out that many stop doing art when there is no goal or destination to work toward (a class, a gallery show, your CRITIQUE day!) I relate so much to this. One very practical piece of advice the book gives to sustain your art making is to 1. Make friends with others who create art and share your in-progress art with them often, and 2.  Make this- the sharing with your artist friends- the destination of your work instead of the gallery show, the class critique, etc. I really loved this idea and I already have friends who create! At the same time I was afraid and nervous… what if I sent an email to my maker friends and then NEVER followed up… this would be just another failure in my attempts to keep making work. But then I remembered I was reading a book called Art & FEAR for  a reason.  So I started an email thread including all my in-progress work and thoughts. It worked great! I got super helpful feedback, and I learned the value of simple things like photographing my in progress work and sketches. Of course as the end of the semester approached I dropped my weekly post to concentrate on my work. Then once the semester was over I still didn’t pick up the pieces because I was focused on finishing the school year. (Also I am pregnant- due August 13th- so the end of the school year was a bit more stressful than usual.) But after three weeks of enjoying the summer and decompressing I am ready to jump back in! The next couple blog posts will update on my grad school work, followed hopefully by some new summer work!

Right now my basic theme is: creating windows into worlds that I could imagine existing in my favorite children’s novels- Is this one of the planets from Madeleine L’Engle Series, or one the lands in OZ or Narnia?  A lot of my ideas are stemming  from old ideas- my beautiful dreams I used have and draw, art work that failed but I kept anyways..

The sketch I made today is based on a family portrait I did- My question was how could I turn this into a magical world that must be traveled through.

The trees are hammered metal supporting a sea which is made of books. Someone (who I’m not sure) is traveling across in a sky lantern that is too bright. I am also wondering who lives in the woods. The black divided sky is a visual  found in the original family portrait but perhaps indicates a totally different way a of the dawn and night fall which is not gradual but dramatic and sudden.

treesea Sketchbook- Tree Sea

I wanted to make an etching of this tree sea, but I thought the original sketch wouldn’t work for it.   So I focused on the trees holding up the sea.  Originally the sea was made of books so I liked the idea of the tree branches  turning into  the pages of books. For my sketches I focused on figuring out how this would actually work .

 

 

I love my sketch. It reminds me of a combination of forest and a cathedral.  One piece of feedback I got from my classmates was to include a focal point, or something that would bring others more directly into this fantasy world. So I added  a couple kids who are looking at a giant book as if it was a map or something.  I also came up with an idea where the metal trees were in need of repair  and these  repair-bears  climb the trees to fix them. I liked the image but when I showed them to my husband, he was pretty concerned. ” Why are the trees breaking?”  he asked… I had forgotten in my imaginative exploration of this world that original Tree was a representation of him, and he was worried that I thought he or our relationship might be broken… Whoops!  I liked the image  but one of the original strengths of the artwork was using symbols from my life to create a landscape and I was not ready to violate quite yet. Thankfully my friend Naomi reminded me that all relationships require maintenance and repair so perhaps the metaphor was still valid. 

So then I tested out the color scheme. Ugh… I hated it. I didn’t think it worked at all in color. At least in these colors.

Ugly Literacy Forest TestThis ugly watercolor took some of the wind from my sail.

So I began painting a 15x 21 watercolor of my sketch. I really enjoyed painting the trees. I would first paint each tree section a warm color and then after it was mostly dry I would go over them with Payne’s Grey. It was a pretty random process and I loved being surprised by the colors each section ended up being.
Everything else I was a little apprehensive about-
What should be the color of the pages? Natural paper color, maybe edged with the tree colors where the pages break? Blue like my original painting?  Something else?
I took about a week and a half break to think about it.

Tree See in progress In Progress

Literary ForestIn the end I combined the blue with the colors coming from the trees. I tested out some options for the ground and ended up having a layer of Payne’s Grey bricks slowly transition to a green mossy cover. It makes me wonder about this place. Is life slowly dying here? Or maybe it is on the edge of a desolate urban environment. No true focal point in this image- it is really just a setting.

 

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Family Portrait

In my life drawing class we were assigned a really interesting project. I ended up liking it so much that I now give this project to my high school students, which lead to some really interesting and beautiful results.

For the beginning of the project we had to create a symbolic tattoo for each of our family members.

Click on the images for descriptions and  a closer look

Then we had to combine these into one cohesive unit that represented the relationships. I struggled at first with how to incorporate my symbol, since I wasn’t quite satisfied with it anyways and it seemed to throw of the balance and scale of any of my ideas. Then I thought about deconstructing the crane. So I folded and then unfolded a paper crane to see what the pattern of the paper looked like. I used this as a structural element within the design. I really liked this because in the end this family portrait is from my perspective and therefor is true only as far as it is true to me. The rest of my family I placed by their emotional and physical distance to me- my husband the closest, my mother next and also serving the the foundation, the ground, of my landscape, and my sister in the distance. I also ended up including my father as the night. Because of our estranged relationship and his death in 2013, he is in the far distance and connected to my sister. She always worked to have a relationship with him. I based the patterns of the darkness on a blind contour memory painting I did of my father when I was in college.  Then after some color tests in my sketchbook I was ready to begin!

The Crane Unfolded
The Crane Unfolded
Thumbnail sketch
Thumbnail sketch
My Father, Blind Contour from Memory 2007
My Father, Blind Contour from Memory 2007
Getting close to figuring it out!
Getting close to figuring it out!
Color testing
Color testing

Here is the finished artwork!

Family Portrait
Family Portrait, Watercolor 18″ x 24″

Geography of Wonder

This series marks my exploration of places that invoke a feeling of wonder and mystery. I am attempting connect my artwork now with the imagery that excited my imagination as a child.

Dining Room Portal
Dining Room Portal